Have you ever gone back to a place filled with incredible memories and have all those memories come rushing back to you? It is kind of like listening to a song and suddenly being transported back to a special place and time connected to that song. A few weeks ago, I went with my family to visit Baton Rouge, and it was one of the best days I have had in a long time. Returning to a place where Father impacted my life in such a major way brought refreshment to my soul and reminded my spirit of the truths Father taught me there. When I lived there over 18 years ago, I had a complete paradigm shift in my thinking about God and what I thought He thought about me.
Yet before I got to that point, a journey had begun in another college town, Tallahassee, home of the Florida State Seminoles! I am going to be brutally honest ... I did not even pray about where I was going to attend college. I knew I would have to attend an in-state school to use a scholarship I had received. I ultimately chose Florida State because it felt like living in a different state with all of the beautiful trees and hills. Within in a short amount of time, I realized someone had prayed about this decision. My life began to radically change at FSU. I share this to say that Father hears every cry of our heart and the prayers of those who love us. Our prayers for others do not go in vain. I am living proof of that. While I was at FSU, I remember walking downstairs to the lobby of my dorm, Kellum Hall, and I saw a table set up advertising Campus Crusade for Christ. I am sure they were used to people trying to sneak by, but I marched right up and signed up for a Bible study. This was the beginning of Father placing a hunger in my life to grow in new and exciting ways. The young lady at the table was named Anita, and she spent the next few years walking beside me and leading me into a deeper understanding of God’s Word. She was the perfect person to work with me because of her gentle, kind, and nurturing nature. She was also an elementary education major which was an instant connection.
So fast forward a few years ... I am in my senior year at FSU, and I am doing my student teaching, and I am MISERABLE (mostly due to working with a rather negative supervising teacher). I knew Father had told me to “love the children,” yet I started to feel the tug on my heart to go on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. I knew this would involve really stepping out of my comfort zone through raising support and moving to a new place. I ended up going on staff and attending staff training in Fort Collins, Colorado, that summer. I met with a Crusade leader named Joe B. to discuss my campus placement. I thought about going to Georgia or maybe North Carolina. He suggested LSU because he said the staff team would be a great fit for me. At that moment my mind thought two things: 1) that is really far away, and 2) isn’t that the school that did that CRAZY skit at the staff retreat I visited in Panama City?! I trusted Joe would do what was right, and I did of course end up at LSU. My staff team was the perfect fit for me, craziness and all ;-). There were four married couples on the team and five single staff members. I was nurtured by the married couples and fell in love with all of their kids. Yet again, someone, including myself this time, had been praying about this decision. When I first arrived in Baton Rouge and entered the campus, I was surprised and relieved to realize how similar the culture was to FSU. I was enthralled by the beauty of the campus and remember being excited about this new journey in my life.
While I was living there, I began to attend Quail Ridge Bible Church (now named Grace Life Fellowship). The first Sunday I attended, I was completely shocked to see a familiar face from Florida State. One of the girls I had attended church with in Tallahassee, Amy, was sitting there in church. We both freaked out and could not believe it. I learned she was getting her masters at LSU. It was just another one of those gifts from Father allowing me to find a familiar friend in a new and unfamiliar place. The pastor at this church is named Frank Friedmann, and he taught me all about who I am in Christ, yet more importantly, who Christ is in me. Up to this point, I knew Jesus was my Savior and my Lord, but I did not know Him as my LIFE. He wanted to live His life in and through me. He wanted to express His life through my unique personality. He did not expect me to jump through certain hoops for Him to love me or accept me. He accepted me based on the facts of Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live. Jesus Christ now lives in me.”
So as I was saying in the beginning of this post, a few weeks ago Kalon and I walked down memory lane in Baton Rouge with our kiddos. We took them by the church Campus Crusade for Christ met in, we drove them by the church we were married in, we took them by our old apartment, and then walked all around the campus. This next excerpt are words my daughter Kaley wrote after I asked her to read through what I had written about my memories so far. This is her writing the story she's heard many times from memory and reflecting on the day from my perspective:
“Then, Christ led me to the love of my life: a man named Kalon Pichon. We had our first date under a tree. Our kids actually got to see the place. Then, Kalon wrote a song about me and the rest was history! And yes…Kalon is beautifully crazy just like all of the LSU kids ;). Kalon and I could not stop reminiscing as we walked around the school. We practically submerged our kids in happy memories.”
Resting in His Love,
I have three beautiful daughters: Abbie (age 19), Alex (age 17) and Avery (age 15). Being their mom is one of the greatest joys in my life, and being married to their dad is another. :) Our church is going through a sermon series titled "Family Matters". The staff have shared some interesting statistics, one being that we have 936 weeks with our children from the time they are born until they graduate high school. Seriously?! That seems like a long time, but it's not. Life moves fast! My girls have grown up so quickly, and I often find myself wondering: Was I there enough? Did I do enough? Did I love them enough? In order to help work through my questions, I sat down and wrote out some words I wanted my girls to have forever. I decided (with some encouragement and maybe a little push from my TWU friends), to share this here too. I hope and pray my girls remember these things, but I also need to be reminded. And maybe you do too.
Dear Abbie, Alex and Avery,
I remember each time I found out I was pregnant and the day each of you were born. Three girls born within four years meant that I would have a little one to rock for quite a while. I thought you would be little forever. But forever actually lasted as long as it took me to type the last three sentences. *sigh* This time last year, Abbie, you graduated from high school and became the first child to leave home for college. I cried for months. Alex, this time next year, you will be graduating from high school and heading off to college. I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it. Three years from now will be a double whammy. Avery, you will graduate from high school/leave for college, and Abbie, you will graduate from college and begin your teaching career. Avery, how does online college sound?
Recently, I was thinking about the next few years, and I thought about the things I want you to know. Some are serious, some are simple, but all of them, I feel, are equally important.
This one may seem like a given, especially since you have been raised in church, but it is something you have to do for yourselves. You were all young when Grandma passed away in 2004. You may not have many memories of her, but she was a strong godly woman with an amazing relationship with the Lord. She was a godly example to all who knew her, especially your daddy. After she passed away, Dad struggled in his faith. Was his faith genuine or was it based on Grandma’s faith? After much soul searching, his faith became stronger as did his relationship with God. I don’t want you girls to love God because we tell you to. I want you to love God because it is a natural response to a relationship with Him that only you can have.
Success. What is it? We are constantly bombarded with the world’s idea of success. A nice home, a great car, lots of money, etc. All of those things are nice, right? But what does God’s Word tell us about success? I think when we live our lives focused on God and his will we will succeed. His desires will become our desires. The things that matter to Him will matter to us.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened is ok, but rather it’s an acknowledgment of a wrong that has been done. When you were little, I didn’t allow you to just say “sorry." You had to say, “I’m sorry for …” Why? Because you needed to take ownership of the wrong you had committed. As a mom, I’ve had to learn to ask forgiveness from you. That’s been a hard lesson to learn. I grew up in a home where forgiveness wasn’t sought, nor was it given very often. I hope that you will forgive and ask for forgiveness often. We have too many people in this world that don’t own up to doing wrong.
The world tells us that strong women can do anything they put their minds to, can be anyone they want to be, and can say anything they want to say. Dad and I have encouraged each of you to pursue your dreams, to try new things and to speak your mind. But none of that matters if you are not living life to the best of your ability. I love this definition of a strong woman: “A strong woman is someone who is walking in her God-given identity, unaffected by the world’s image of the feminine role or the religious pressure to conform to some reduced version of herself.” - Kris Vallotton from Fashioned to Reign. Stand up for yourself. Stand strong in what the Creator says about you and who you are.
Believing in yourself is empowering. Think back to a time when you knew you could do something and you accomplished it. Avery: the first 3 point shot you ever made. Alex: submitting a piece to an art show and getting an acceptance letter. Abbie: that mid-term that you crammed for all night and aced. How did you feel? Amazing, right? That’s what believing in yourself feels like. You gain confidence. You sense your purpose. You can conquer the world. And don’t worry if you fail. Look at it as an opportunity to learn.
The first six months that we lived in Louisiana, we weren’t really there. Our hearts were back in Alabama with our family and friends. As often as possible, we would “go home” for the weekend. We had to learn to be “at home” in Louisiana. It was hard making new friends and finding a new church, but looking back at the moment we decided to be where we were, we began to experience new and wonderful things. Whether you are working a job that gets you through school, or you are in a place temporarily, don’t miss out on the opportunities God has for you there. When we stop looking too far into the future or missing the past, we will learn to enjoy the present moment. Eight years later, I can say that Alabama no longer feels like home. Home is wherever I am with you and Dad.
Cliché, I know, but it’s a good mantra to have. Worrying is a time waster. It can cause stress and wrinkles. But most importantly, it takes away our trust in God. One of my favorite passages is Matthew 6:26-27: "If the God of the universe will take care of the birds, He will take care of you." I’m not saying that I don’t worry because I do, but I also trust that God is going to provide (because He ALWAYS has in the past). He’s got your back. You can trust Him to take care of you.
When you have a bad day, remember it’s only 24 hours long. You just have to get through the next few hours before you get a new start. Bad days will come, but that’s all they are. A day. Twenty-four hours. And when you’re having a bad day, just call your mama. I’ll be happy to listen as you vent and remind you of how awesome you are.
Have a servant’s heart. Invite people over. Feed them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Share life’s joys and heartaches with them. It doesn’t matter if you eat pizza off of paper plates or steaks off of fine china. Take the time to invest in those around you. Find a way to serve the ones God has put in your life. It may be as simple as listening to a friend share what they are going through or cooking a meal for a family in need. It’s easy to serve the ones we care about, but I challenge you to find ways to serve outside of your comfort zone. The quantity of time spent with someone is never too little when it’s done in love.
When each of you was a baby, we dedicated you to the Lord. As much as we love you, our love does not compare to the love your heavenly Father has for you. When you feel unlovable, know that you are loved. When you make mistakes, know that you are loved. We may not always agree with the decisions you make, but we will always love you. You are loved. You always have been, and you always will be.
You have us. You have your friends. One day, a long time from now, you may have husbands and a family of your own. Relationships are hard work. A good relationship requires communication, trust, and a little give and take. Always keep the lines of communication open. Learn when to speak and when to keep quiet. Be trustworthy and bestow trust. Nurture those good relationships, and recognize what harmful ones look like. And remember, Dad says you can’t date until you're 30.
Pursue your dreams. Follow your heart. Do whatever the cool t-shirts tell you to do. Just don’t earn a degree because you think that’s what Dad and I want for you. God has placed within each of you a talent, a gift, a passion to do something special. Find it. Grow it. Live it. Life is too short to be stuck in a job that you hate, not living life to the fullest. Take time to find out what your best life might look like. If it lines up with the calling you feel God has on your life, then pursue it!
And last but not least…
Laugh until you have to cross your legs. Make that ugly cry face. Sing along to the car radio. Yes, people may stare at you for any or all of the above but not the people who love you. Dad and I, and your sisters, we are your people. I hope you find others to embrace the crazy and become your people. Welcome them into your inner circle.
I hope that you don’t see this as a to-do list but attainable things that might make life a little more enjoyable. Things, I hope, that I have modeled for you. Dad and I love you. Our desire has always been to raise you to be godly women. Girls, we may not be able to give you everything you want, but hopefully we have given you the things you need: LOVE. ENCOURAGEMENT. SECURITY. Home will always be a soft place to land. I’m blessed to be your Mama.
Embrace life to the fullest,
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